From Goku to Midoriya: What happened to anime heroes?

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In the 90’s, the world got its first glimpse at what the anime genre had to offer with a lot of predominant series. However, no one was as important and defining as Dragon Ball. For a lot of people, its release worldwide was a breaking point for the anime/manga culture. And despite being almost 30 years later from that, something has happened in its formula.

The new kind of anime hero

It’s a very simple yet deep change that has molded the new heroes of last years anime series. What could it be? Easy, the anime protagonists of this time and age are humans. Take Goku as an example. He’s an alien that looks like a human, has godly powers and faces godly enemies in godly destruction scenarios. He is super powerful in all senses. Now let’s look at a recent anime hero: Izuku Midoriya. He is a mere human with insecurities that was given a chance to prove its worth to the strongest man of its universe. When he delivered, he received a power that could destroy him and had to learn how to master it properly. There are stakes involved and characters that we can identify with.

And it’s not an isolated case. Take Fullmetal Alchemist: two brothers broken after a tragic event in their childhood, look for a way to bring back something that was taken from them while fighting mysterious forces. They aren’t godly aliens, they are just kids venturing into the unknown, surviving with the power and wits they have. Black Clover, a kid that does not have magic potential, suddenly receives a different kind of power that uses to make his dream come true.

And the list keeps going and going. However, this can be firmly established with the biggest anime representation of its success: The Big 3. This term refers to three franchises that skyrocketed the manga/anime culture in the entire world: One Piece, Naruto and Bleach. And while there are many differences between them, they all relate to one single thing: they are inexpert human beings trying to find their dreams or be better.

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The new focus of anime heroes

It would seem that from one point forward, the focus changed to offer characters and stories that the audience could relate too. Don’t get me wrong, I will still raise my hands when my bro Goku requests my help. But the new heroes are here to prove to us that anything is possible. That while yes, you can see two gods punch each other relentlessly for days, you want to see that kid being Pirate King or the weakling become the greatest hero.

It’s a journey that’s told from a human perspective and makes us feel like we could do well, just like them. Role models that don’t rely always on power but on courage, determination and willpower. If this is the peak for anime/manga, then it will become way better from here. And judging by the upcoming projects, more amazing stories are on the way from relatable and worthy characters to follow around.

Image Credits: Toei Animation

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